Sunday, March 6, 2011

Textbook Costs and Habits

Textbooks account for a large fraction of expenses at Kalamazoo College. In this study, we wanted to get an idea of where Kalamazoo College students purchase their textbooks, and what factors influence this decision. Two particular points of interest were if there was a significant difference in price from the Kalamazoo College Bookstore compared to alternative sources, and if the K College Bookstore could provide any additional services to make the campus store a more appealing option.

From our sample of 61 students, the average amount spent on books was $213.89 per quarter. 37% of books were purchased at the K College Bookstore, 14% from an online retailer, 19% from and online wholesaler, 16% from a private seller, and 14% from other sources (e.g. borrowed from a friend or the library). We calculated that 55% of the total amount spent on books went to alternative sources, such as or personal sellers. Out of a sample of 58 books, the average student saved $14.07 per book when purchasing it at an alternate source. We tested to see if there was variation among different populations on campus; however, there is no significant difference between the numbers of upper and underclassmen who use alternative sources, men and women, or hard and social science majors.

The study also surveyed students on the influences behind book-buying habits in an effort to inform the K College Bookstore of what really matters to K students. Not surprisingly, the results showed that price is the most important issue to students. Availability of new books is the least important influence, as most students prefer the lower cost of used books. Finally, we asked if students would be interested in a textbook rental program at the Kalamazoo College Bookstore. While none of the surveyed students rented textbooks this quarter, 64% said that they would be likely or very likely to rent a book Spring Quarter.

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